Landscapes of Freedom
Building a Postemancipation Society in the Rainforests of Western Colombia
Afro-Colombian slave labor had produced the largest share of gold in the colony of New Granada. After the abolishment of slavery, some free people left the mining areas and settled elsewhere along the coast, making this the largest area of Latin America in which black people predominate into the present day. However, this economy and society, which lived off the extraction of natural resources, was presided over by a very small white commercial elite living in the region’s ports, where they sought to create an urban environment that would shelter them from the jungle.
Landscapes of Freedom reconstructs a nonplantation postemancipation trajectory that sheds light on how environmental conditions and management influenced the experience of freedom. It also points at the problematic associations between autonomy and marginality that have shaped the history of Afro-America. By focusing on racialized landscapes, Leal offers a nuanced and important approach to understanding the history of Latin America.
“This book examines a unique region of Latin America, the Pacific coast rainforests of Colombia, that we have long needed to know more about. Connecting Afro-Latin American history to environmental history, it makes major contributions to both fields. And it forcibly reminds us of the immense importance of tropical rainforests—both their presence and their absence—in our collective past and present.”—George Reid Andrews, author of Afro-Latin America: Black Lives, 1600–2000